Three points ahead of their rivals three months into the 2016-17 season, Liverpool know a win on Monday will not only keep them solidly in the top four well into October but will also keep them solidly ahead of Manchester United. It would widen the gap to six points and provide further confirmation this is a team that just might be able to achieve something special this year.
United won’t be pushovers. The most expensive squad in football may not quite be living up to their price tag so far this season, but new manager Jose Mourinho knows how to set up his team away to frustrate attacking sides generally and Liverpool specifically. Liverpool, though, aren’t going to be scared. And they have a plan or two. At least according to goalkeeper Loris Karius.
"Man Utd has a good, strong team but we have a great team and we play at home,” said Karius. “We have respect for them but we’re not scared of them and we know we want to win the game. We’ll have a good plan—or more than one plan—so we will be well prepared. Monday night at Anfield, the fans will be behind us, so I think everyone’s looking forward to it."
Despite some speculation early in the international break that Simon Mignolet might have a chance to re-claim the starting job against United, Karius is expected to be given another start. While Mignolet has been away with Belgium, Karius has been at Anfield working with the team and looking to shake off any lingering rust from the month he spent sidelined with a broken hand.
It’s also worth remembering that Mignolet has had multiple seasons at the club, and the entirety of 2015-16 working under Jürgen Klopp, to show what he can do. Karius has had two games, and while he hasn’t looked a clear upgrade, he also hasn’t looked a worse option. Given his standing in Germany last season and that he was bought for the future as much as the present, a switch back to Mignolet now would make little sense.
"Sometimes you know earlier, sometimes you don’t," he added when asked about the issue. "Most of the players don’t know the day before, but it’s not really a problem. You prepare for the game anyway so it doesn’t really make a difference if you know a month before, a week before, a day before, because it won’t really change anything in your training."